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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There are over 8,000 parish churches in England in which the fabric of the building is predominantly medieval. Most are buildings of historic interest rather than of any great architectural merit, a substantial minority however, have left England with a legacy of parochial buildings that is only surpassed by Italy and France. Some of the best churches such as Lavenham church and St Edmund, Southwold,both in Suffolk and St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Fairford Church, Gloucestershire, which miraculously has retained all its medieval stained glass, are amongst the finest in Europe. The towers of the great 15th century Somerset churches have no equal in medieval parish church architecture anywhere in the world.

The majority of the population of England before 1350 were the unfree peasantry. Serfs tied to the land owned by the lord of the manor. In this deeply hierarchical society it was Christian doctrine that dignified the existence of the serf, in that it maintained all were equal in the eyes of god(although this didn't prevent the religious houses of the time selling and buying serfs like livestock) so in theory at least, within the confines of the parish church the serf and lord worshipped as equals.
The church exacted a heavy financial burden on the peasant, the tithe was an annual tax of ten percent of income and these financial liabilties extended beyond the grave in the form of 'mortuary' whereon the death of a peasant the church would claim the man's second best beast, the first would go to the lord as 'heriot'


In 1997 I visited the Saxon church of St John, Esomb, County Durham. This humble little building, beautiful in its simplicity has stood almost unaltered since it was built in the 670's ! Since then I've visited around 300 medieval parish churches all over England. My favourite (sentimental reasons) remains the church of St Helen, Sefton, on the northern outskirts of Liverpool near where I grew up. In many ways this church is a typical medieval church. Founded by a Norman knight who fought alongside William the Conqueror and was then granted the manor of Sefton, his family remained lords of the manor there for 800 years.


The medieval parish church resonates with the history of the lives of the peasantry, but much more, the very fabric of these buildings seem to have absorbed the meditations, joy and grief of generations of worshippers. No other piece of ground or space is comparable to a medieval parish church in this respect.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
The church of St Helen, Sefton, on the outskirts of Liverpool. There was a chapel on this site in the 12th century, nothing of which remains. The main body of the church is from the 1520's and the steeple the 1330's.


 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The carved bench ends at St Helen's date from the early 1500's and among the best in the north of England. Seating was only introduced into parish churches in the late 13thc, before that the congregation stood. When services were long parishoners would sit on the column base or or go lean on the walls, hence the the expression 'going to the wall'



 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Effigies of two knights. The one missing part of the leg is from the 1330's and is unidentified, the other is Sir William Molyneux and dates from the 1290's.



 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I particularly like the wood carvings in this church. I know the wood has aged, but I love the darkness of it. Very Germanic in my eyes ( although I'm no expert at all)
Yes, oak turns black with age and becomes almost as hard as iron. The Black Forest in Germany has been renowned for its wood carvers for centuries. Great updates on your thread btw:cheers:
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
St Michael, Huyton, Liverpool

There's been a church on this site since 1189, although the earliest parts of the present structure , the tower and chancel, date from the early 1400's.



 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
St Peter & St Paul, Leominster, Herefordshire

Herefordshire has some very fine parish churches and this is one of th best. Most built between the 12th and 14th centuries it has excellent Romanesque and Decorated Gothic detailing.

 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The west window and south aisle windows with their Geometric tracery,studded with ballflower ornament. This is typical detail of early Decorated Gothic around 1300, and these windows are superb examples of the period.



 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
St Mary, Nantwich, Cheshire

Probably Cheshire's finest church. Built mostly in the 14thc mainly in the Decorated style with some Perpendicular work. The octagonal crossing tower its crowning glory externally, with superb choir stalls from the 1370's inside.


 
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